To offer a place to practice self-soothing techniques through all five senses, The Wave Wellness Room has been created for employees at Children’s & Women’s Hospital.
By Casandra Andrews
Even before the pandemic, healthcare workers were experiencing stress at elevated levels across the United States and beyond, research shows.
A 2022 survey of 11,964 nurses found that more than 70% reported recently experiencing stress, noted the American Nurses Foundation. Another study of physicians, nurses, and advanced care providers during the early COVID-19 pandemic reported some 57% had acute stress. Unfortunately, extended periods of high stress can often lead to burnout.
With that knowledge in mind, members of the spiritual wellness and child and family life teams at Children’s & Women’s Hospital collaborated on a project to create a space where employees can step away from stressful situations, when needed, to soothe their senses.
“The idea is for employees to take a 10- or 15-minute break when they need to pause, cope, and restore themselves,” said Chaplain Kim Crawford Meeks, the spiritual care manager for USA Health.
The space, located outside of the entrance to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, has tools and resources available for all five senses: a water feature with changing colors, a monitor of scenes of nature and sounds, aromatherapy, hard candies, sand therapy, art projects, puzzles, stress balls, music, lights, and more.
The room came together over several months, thanks to donations of resources from Pilot Catastrophe and local artist Christy Flowers and her husband Kerry Flowers, director of organizational development at USA Health, who painted peaceful blue waves along the walls.
“Hopefully,” Meeks said, “the resources in the room will be beneficial, and offer tools for our employees to use as they practice ongoing self-care and coping skills.”
Meeks offers these suggestions for those who visit the new wellness space:
Self-soothing through the five senses
- Sight: Think of something or a place that has been soothing to you before. Imagine the colors, shapes, and visuals of this place. You may also find scenes of nature, animals, or other visuals to watch rather than imagining a place. Using your eyes or imagination to see images can be soothing and provide a distraction when feeling overwhelmed.
- Smell: Aromatherapy has been shown to offer excellent benefits for well-being; it has been recommended for dealing with anxiety, depression, and issues with relaxation. You may use oil, candles, flowers, spices, or even your memory to imagine a smell that soothed you in the past.
- Sound: Music is a powerful influence that helps to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and more. Singing has been shown to increase levels of endorphins and oxytocin, which boost mood and reduce stress. Studies have shown that many people can hold on to their musical memories when their minds cannot remember other details about their lives. Music has an incredible impact on us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Even if you don’t have a favorite music, changing your usual sounds can be a soothing and mindful experience. Sometimes the sound of silence is exactly what you may need.
- Taste: Foods offer many varied textures, flavors, and temperatures; therefore, taste has endless possibilities for mindfulness and self-care. Along with providing nourishment, food can bring us joy and allow us to create connections, traditions, and memories. When we need comfort, trying a hard candy, or sipping a cup of soothing herbal tea may be helpful. You may also close your eyes and imagine food that was included in a comforting memory.
- Touch: Skin is the largest organ of our bodies; therefore, it is always in contact with something whether we are conscious of it or not. Imagining something we feel that is comforting can be beneficial to self-soothing. It could be remembering the sand under your feet, or cool grass early in the morning, or a soft breeze on a sunny day. There are many fidget tools available which can offer distraction and various textures for touch. Touch is a powerful tool in mindfulness, relaxation, and stress relief.